Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ben Affleck cast as Batman in Superman/Batman film

Ben Affleck has been confirmed as playing Batman in Zack Snyder's sequel to Man of Steel. It's a very interesting choice, and I don't think Affleck would have been the first name that would pop into my mind for who I would like to see play Bruce Wayne/Batman, but I'm still excited to see how he will do. It doesn't help his case that he was already in one superhero movie in the form of Daredevil that wasn't such a big hit, but hopefully this will be different.

I have to say, though, that while I'm definitely curious as to how Affleck will play the role, I can't help but think I'd rather see him direct an eventual Justice League movie than simply play a role in the movie. Sadly, that probably won't happen.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Movie Trivia Tuesday: The Apartment

Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing The Apartment, staring Jack Lemon, Shirley MacClain and Fred MacMurray for the first time and was stunned by how much I loved it. The story was interesting and well written for the screen with an interesting concept, the performances were all fantastic, everything about it was just wonderful. Considering how blown away I was by the quality of that movie, I couldn't help but chose it for this week's trivia.

  • The name on the door next to Baxter's office is T.W.Plews. Tom Plews was the prop master

  • The office Christmas party scene was actually filmed on December 23, 1959, so as to catch everybody in the proper holiday mood. Billy Wilder filmed almost all of it on the first take, stating to an observer, "I wish it were always this easy. Today, I can just shout 'action' and stand back"

  • This is the first Best Picture Oscar winner to specifically refer to a previous winner, in this case two of them. First Grand Hotel, which Baxter attempts to watch on television but is too long delayed because of commercials. Bud's boss also refers to Bud and Fran having "a lost weekend" together in Bud's apartment, a reference to Billy Wilder's earlier Oscar winner, The Lost Weekend

  • In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #80 Greatest Movie of All Time

  • The nasal spray used by Jack Lemmon was actually milk. Real nasal spray would not have shown up on camera

  • Billy Wilder claimed that he and I.A.L. Diamond already had Jack Lemmon in mind to play Baxter when they wrote the screenplay. In an interview years later, Lemmon confirmed this

  • The studio wanted Groucho Marx for the role of Dr. Dreyfuss, but Billy Wilder said no, stating that he wanted an actor with more dramatic weight for the part

  • C.C. Baxter is just a poor accountant. But inside his apartment are two authentic Tiffany Studios lamps, worth hardly anything when the film was made, but now worth between $30,000 and $40,000 each

  • The film's classic last line was thought up by the writers at the last minute on-set.   


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: The Heat

Buddy cop movies, or just buddy movies in general, are truly a hit or miss affair. For every Leathal Weapon or 48 Hours there is a Rush Hour and The Man. The Heat, the new Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy comedy, falls somewhere in the middle.

The Heat stars Sandra Bullock as a no nonsense FBI agent who is forced to team up with a sloppy, foul-mouthed Boston cop in order to get to the bottom of a crime. Throughout the film, there differences in style constantly clash, leading to a variety of hilarious situations.

The Heat stands out as being a very funny movie to come out in a summer that has been largely lacking in laughs, and it is a welcome change of pace.  It also helps that Bullock and McCarthy are genuinely a joy to watch play off one another.

Bullock, specifically, makes a positive impression as the straight woman of the two. I was thoroughly impressed by her ability to successfully deliver comedy. On many occasions, I felt that she even overshadowed the more comedically-minded McCarthey in her ability to successfully land a joke and just be funny in general. A few particularly humorous scenes, one in a night club and another in a bar, are great at illustrating Bullocks obvious comedic talent.

While my praise for Bullock is higher, I won’t take away too much from McCarthey, as she did do well with her rough, trash-talking character.  It’s certainly a step up for her from something like Identity Thief. Hopefully she will chose parts with better humor like this, possibly leading her on a path back to the glory days of Bridesmaids.

And speaking of the humor in the movie, I give credit to the writers for crafting a slew of hysterical moments, as there are many jokes peppered throughout the movie, and almost all of them hit really well. This is something that can’t be said for some other comedies in recent months.

It may not be a comedy classic, and the plot may be a bit thin, but you’ll be too busy laughing at The Heat to care about any of its flaws or shortcomings, and it serves as a wonderful pick me up from an otherwise disappointing summer movie season that is otherwise almost completely devoid of laughs.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Man of Steel sequel to be a Batman/Superman crossover

A couple days ago, it was announced that the next Man of Steel movie will include another familiar face in the DC universe, Batman. It took me a while to gather my thoughts as to what I thought of this news, and I'm still not totally sure. On the surface, it seems like a really cool idea, but several factors make it potentially problematic.

First, the fact that the most recent Superman movie was pretty darn boring doesn't bode well for any sequel to that franchise, especially considering the same writer and directors are coming back, so it could just be more of the same boring content. Hopefully the sequel will make things a whole lot more interesting and less explode-y and wall-to-wall action than the first installment.

Second, reinventing Batman is going to be a really tall order in the wake of the Christopher Nolan Batman storyline. It's totally possible that there are other director/actor combinations that could work to make another great Batman movie, but it really depends heavily on who they get to take on the roll of the Caped Crusader, considering Christian Bale won't be coming back, either. Whoever they get, it's going to be very difficult to best the quality of what came before.

Finally, I think the movies believability rests on how they treat the relationship of Batman to Superman. Will it be a rivalry? A team up? If it's the former, it seems like it will be a lot harder to believably pull off, because how could Batman be any match for Superman? I think the two teaming up somehow is the only logical way this kind of storyline could be executed. Plus, they have to get on the same side eventually if things are supposed to be leading up to a Justice League movie.

I'm still excited and intrigued by the prospect of a Batman/Superman crossover, I just sincerely hope the concept is treated respectfully and, as much as a superhero movie can be, believably. We'll find out in 2015. What a year that will be for movies.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Movie Trivia Tuesday: Chinatown

Chinatown, in which Jack Nicholson plays one of his greatest roles as detective Jake Gittes, will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year, and even after all that time has passed, it still holds up as a fantastic neo-noir story. In addition to Nicholson's stellar performance, it also features excellent direction from Roman Polanski and award-winning writing from Robert Towne. Let's learn some more about this gem in this week's Tuesday Movie Trivia.

  • In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked Chinatown as the #21 Greatest Movie of All Time.

  • The movie's line "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." was voted as the #74 movie quote by the American Film Institute

  • After several takes that never looked quite right, Faye Dunaway told Jack Nicholson to actually slap her. He did, and the scene made it into the movie.

  • Jake Gittes was named after Jack Nicholson's friend, producer Harry Gittes.

  • Chinatown was the first part of a planned trilogy written by Robert Towne about J.J. Gittes and L.A. The second part, The Two Jakes, was directed by Jack Nicholson in 1990. No third movie was ever made.

  • The original script for Chinatown was over 180 pages.

  • Chinatown was the last movie Roman Polanski filmed in the United States.

  • Chinatown was nominated for 11 Academy Awards: Best Writing, Original Screenplay; Best Actor in a Leading Role, Jack Nicholson; Best Actress in a Leading Role, Faye Dunaway; Best Art Direction-Set Direction; Best Cinematography; Best Costume Design; Best Director, Roman Polanski; Best Film Editing; Best Music, Original Dramatic Score; Best Sound; Best Picture. It only won Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Movie Trivia Tuesday: Spaceballs

This week at the wonderful Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, there will be a screening of Mel Brooks 1987 Space movie spoof Spaceballs. While it's not my favorite of Brooks' movies (that would most definitely be Young Frankenstein, which I would call a comedy masterpiece), Spaceballs is a lot of fun, and worth a watch. It's also worth talking about in this week's Movie Trivia Tuesday.

  • President Skroob's name is an anagram of Mel Brooks, who plays him.

  • John Candy ad-libbed the line, "Oh, that's gonna leave a mark," after standing up without undoing his seat belt. 

  • Dark Helmet's voice changing whenever his face was covered was Rick Moranis's idea.

  • One of a handful of movies (Caddyshack II, Big, and Beetlejuice) to contain the F-word and still get a PG rating in the PG-13 era.

  • It took Mel Brooks six months to write the script.

  • The license plate on Princess Vespa's Mercedes reads, "Spoil'd Rott'n I."

  • Mel Brooks sent the script to George Lucas and was concerned that he would be offended, but Lucas called Brooks and gave him his trust after seeing Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

  • According to Mel Brooks, this is one of the most expensive movies he has ever made: $25 million, with Dracula: Dead and Loving It a close second at $22 million. By contrast,The Producers cost less than $1 million to produce.

  • A full face mask resembling a wrinkled bulldog was originally constructed for the character of Barf, but Mel Brooks quipped that 'if they were going to hide John Candy behind a mask, he might as well hire someone else for half the price'. A nose and upper lip piece was tried next, which Candy approved but again Brooks did not. They finally settled on animatronic ears connected to a hairpiece, a small nose application and a patch over one eye just like the dog from the 'Our Gang' shorts.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Movie Trivia Tuesday: Citizen Kane

Sorry for the absense for the second half of June, readers, but I am back to divulge more awesome and fascinating trivia for beloved movies. This week, I am concentrating on the MOST revered movie of all time according to many, many critics and lists of movie rankings, Citizen Kane.

  • Despite all the publicity, the film was a box office flop and was quickly consigned to the RKO vaults. At 1941's Academy Awards the film was booed every time one of its nine nominations was announced. It was only re-released for the public in the mid-1950s.   

  • Xanadu's design is based on William Randolph Hearst's elaborate home in San Simeon and Mont St Michel in France.

  • Orson Welles always claimed that this picture was not the biography of one specific individual, but a composite of characters from that era in America. Though universally recognized as based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, there were also elements in the story that applied to the life of Chicago utilities magnate Samuel Insulll.

  • The American Film Institute's poll ranked the film #1 greatest American movie of all time in 1998, and again on the anniversary list from 2007.
  • Orson Welles chipped his anklebone halfway through production and had to direct for 2 weeks from a wheelchair. When he was called upon to stand up onscreen, he wore metal braces. The injury occurred in the scene where Kane chases Gettys down the stairs and Welles tripped.
  • The original nitrate negatives are gone; they were lost in a fire during the 1970s.
  • The movie's line "Rosebud." was voted as the #17 movie quote by the American Film Institute
  • In the scene where Jedediah confronts Kane, Joseph Cotten had stayed awake for 24 hours before the shoot so as to finish in order to start a play in New York. He makes an error and says "dramatic crimiticism," a flub that Cotten inadvertently made in rehearsals that Welles decided to use.
  • The audience that watches Kane make his speech is, in fact, a still photo. To give the illusion of movement, hundreds of holes were pricked in with a pin, and lights moved about behind it.
  • For this movie Orson Welles, along with cinematographer Gregg Toland, pioneered "deep focus", a technique that keeps every object in the foreground, center and background in simultaneous focus. This brought a sense of depth to the two-dimensional world of movies.
  • Citizen Kane was nominated for 8 Oscars: Best Sound, Recording; Best Picture; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture; Best Film Editing; Best Director, Orson Welles; Best Cinematography, Black and White; Best Art Direction-Interior Direction, Black and White; Best Actor in a Leading Role, Orson Welles; and Best Writing, Original Screenplay.
  • It only took home one Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.      


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Trailer Trash Thursday

In a contrast from last week, which saw almost no new trailers that I actually had any interest in whatsoever, there are multiple new previews out this week that have piqued my interest.  First off, probably the most noteworthy trailer of the week is for the upcoming sequel to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, titled The The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, which you can watch here. I did not get around to watching the first movie in this series, so I can't really comment on how much different and/or better or worse this movie looks compared to the last one, but I can say it looks pretty darn cool. It seems very exciting and fun, not to mention appropriately epic. If nothing else, it makes me want to go back and give the first movie a shot.

Secondly, a movie that could be hit or miss, but that I have pretty high hopes for, is The To Do List, the trailer for which you can watch here. Ever since Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and (especially) Safety Not Guaranteed, as well as her role on Parks and Recreation, I've been an ever growing fan of Aubrey Plaza and her dry humor. I can imagine it might be off putting to some, but I dare you to watch Safety Not Guaranteed and not fall in love with her in all her strange, sarcastic charm. This movie could definitely be a hit or miss affair, but I think it looks like a fun and funny sex comedy. If nothing else, I'm willing to take my chances on it simply because of Plaza's starring role.

I'm perhaps a bit more excited than I should be after seeeing the new trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire here. While it's not a movie I return to or think about very often, I did enjoy the first movie. I love movies with a great sense of visual style, it that movie certainly had its fair share. The fact that Zak "Man of Steel" Snyder is no longer handling directing duties could be a good or bad thing.  I've never seen anything from Noam Murro, who has assumed the position as director for this movie, so it's hard to judge whether I will likely enjoy his style or not. The trailer makes it look promising to me, but then, do we really even need a 300 sequel?

A new trailer for White House Down reinvigorates my interest what could potentially be a movie that is a lot of fun and really awesome. That's a huge if, but two big ingridents for success are there in the form of Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. I'm not a big fan of Roland Emmerich, but both of these actors have been super impressive as of late, and I have faith that they wouldn't choose to star in a stinker, or at least that they could cause a stinker to rise above that status. At the very least, hopefully it will be better than Olympus Has Fallen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Movie Trivia Tuesday: Singin' in the Rain

This coming Thursday, I will have the opportunity to see Singin' in the Rain on the big screen for the second time in my life at the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, FL. If I were to make a top 5 list (and someday I still might, even though it's a nearly impossible task), then singin' in the Rain would probably land as my #2 favorite movie of all time. It is an amazing, entertaining, funny, awe-inspiring film that is a joy to watch over and over again. It is certainly the best musical of all time, with multiple excellent and memorable songs and the talents that populate the movie are all remarkable. I could really go on and on about how much I love this movie. Given this exciting occasion, I thought it only appropriate to make Singin' in the Rain this weeks trivia subject.
  • Different actors were considered for all three of the main roles at various times. Judy Garland was considered among several other actresses to play the part of Kathy Seldon, but was deemed too old for the part, the role of Cosmo Brown was originally written for Oscar Levant before Donald O’Connor was suggested, and Howard Keel was the original choice to play Don Lockwood.
  • Gene Kelly was seen by Donald O’Connor as somewhat of a tyrant while making the movie, and supposedly even criticizing Debbie Reynolds dancing to the point of making her cry
  • In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked Singin' in the Rain the #5 greatest film of all time
  • The film was nominated for two Oscars, one for Best Supporting Actress, Jean Hagen and another for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture. Donald O’Connor also won a Golden Globe for his performance as Cosmo Brown.
  • The script was written after the songs. A plot had to be devised around which the songs would fit
  • Only two songs were written specifically for the film, “Moses Supposes” and “Make ‘Em Laugh”
  • In the songs “Would You” and “You Are My Lucky Star,” Debbie Reynolds is being dubbed by Betty Noyes
  • The melody for “Make ‘Em Laugh” is strikingly similar to the song “Be a Clown” sung by Gene Kelly in The Pirate. Nobody was ever accused of plagiarism, though. Judge for yourself here and here.
  • Gene Kelly had a 103 degree fever during the filming the “Singin’ in the Rain” musical number
  • The rain used in the “Singin’ in the Rain” musical number was actually a combination of water and milk, which was used to make it show up better on film

Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: Now You See Me

Now You See Me…and now you see an incredibly mediocre movie.

Now You See Me is the newest in a string of movies made in the past few years presenting a story about the world of stage magic, and it is probably about the worst of the bunch (oh wait, The Amazing Burt Wonderstone, that’s the worst. This is a step above that). This one sends FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol officer Alma Dray on a wild goose chase to capture a group of magicians who call themselves the Four Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Ilsa Fisher, and Dave Franco), whose big trick appears to be robbing banks in locations all over the world. Unfortunately for Rhodes, these conniving criminals are always several steps ahead of Rhodes, who is made a fool by their trickery. As Jesse Eisenberg’s character states, “the first rule of magic: always be the smartest guy in the room.”

The creators of Now You See Me have done a little magic of their own, making anything resembling interesting characters or development of those characters disappear before the audience’s very eyes. It’s a shame really, considering the load of capable talent that populates this movie, including Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, and to a lesser extent, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jesse Eisenberg. None of these characters are made interesting enough to care about as you watch their crafty illusions and daring escapes, or, on the flip side, their foiled attempts to capture the crooks.

If the paper-thin characters aren’t bad enough, the movie houses a plot that’s almost as hard to believe as the idea that some of the tricks being performed in the movie are anything but CGI. It starts out simple and interesting enough, but it only gets crazier as the con gets bigger, leading to some moments in the movies back half that are too farfetched to take seriously, if you even care by the time it’s over.

Director Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans, The Hulk) doesn’t help matters, as he struggles to succeed in bringing the story home and relies on flashy visuals and quick cuts to trick the audience into forgetting the movie’s ridiculous premise.

I will say one of the few things the movie has going for it is the fact that the cast IS impressive. Woody Harrelson provides a few humorous moments, but the best part is being able to see a couple of scenes where Caine and Freeman face off against one another. It’s a real treat to see these two heavy hitters occupying the same screen space together, and the movie is almost worth it just for that, but the excitement of witnessing this union of acting giants is only temporary. In fact, if you want to see these two in a movie, you’re much better off going back to revisit The Dark Knight. I don’t recall that they have screen time together in that movie, but they’re both in it, and play more interesting characters. It’s a much better way to spend a couple hours.

Speaking of superior Christopher Nolan movies, instead of wasting your money on Now You See Me, which you would be perfectly fine renting when it is released on Blu-ray and DVD, do a double feature of The Dark Knight and The Prestige. That remains the greatest movie about magic and illusion ever made.  Now You See Me, with its lack of characterization and implausible plot, not so much.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Trailer Trash Thursday

It seems like it's been a slow week for trailers. below is a collection of some that appear to be interesting, whether it be for better or worse.

Ain't Them Bodies Saints (HERE) looks like it has great potential to me. Ever since The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Side Effects, I have become a big fan of Rooney Mara, and so her inclusion in this movie has me excited to see it from the beginning. Casey Affleck has also impressed me in the past, and the movie looks sufficiently dramatic.

On the other end of the genre spectrum are The World's End (HERE) and Machete Kills (HERE) both look like tons of fun, and in the case of The World's End, I've gotten to a point where I'll see anything Edgar Wright makes, so I'm in.

Unfortunately, Planes (HERE), which seems to take place in the world of Pixar's Cars, looks to be more on the lame side to me, as does Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (HERE), another entry in a franchise I've never really cared for, and this trailer doesn't really change my mind.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Trivia Tuesday: The Wizard of Oz

This past weekend, I saw a stage performance of The Wizard of Oz that, while cute, only made me appreciate the original, masterful, 1939 movie more than ever. I have always been a fan of The Wizard of Oz, but after that production, which featured some of the scenes that were left out of the movie (and rightly left out, I might add), not to mention the lackluster Oz The Great and Powerful from earlier this year,  I have come to appreciate what we have in the original film much, much more. It also made me want to explore some of the history and other information surrounding the movie. Here are some facts about The Wizard of Oz.

  • The movie won two Oscars, one for Best Original Score and another for Best Original Song for "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It was also nominated for Best Art Direction; Best Cinematography, Color; Best Effects, Special Effects;  and Best Picture.

  • 1939 was a very difficult year for The Wizard of Oz to compete for Best Picture, and it lost to Gone with the Wind.

  • Buddy Ebsen was originally cast to play the Tin Man, but after a reaction to the aluminum dust that was used for his make-up caused him to be rushed to the hospital, the role was recast with Jack Haley. The material used for the make-up was also switched from aluminum dust to aluminum paste. Buddy Eben's vocals remain in the film whenever they sing "We're Off to See the Wizard."

  • In a deleted musical number that was to appear while the group was in the forest, the wicked witch sends a swarm of insects that causes the group to dance the Jitterbug furiously, robbing them of their strength. The scene was originally included to capitalize on the bobby-soxer dance craze at the time, but was later removed out of fear that it was date the movie too much. The song (featuring Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man) still survives, along with a rough filmed version, which you can listen to and watch here. Furthermore, a reference to the scene remains in the final film when the Wicked Witch says "send the insects on ahead to take the flight out of them" before the flying monkeys take off.

  • Shirley Temple was considered for the role of Dorothy, closer matching the actual age of the character, but there were two problems with that: She was under contract with 20th Century Fox, and was eventually deemed to have inadequate vocal talent for the role.

  • Judy Garland had to wear an uncomfortable corset-style device around her torso to maker her appear younger and flat-chested.

  • Producer Marvyn LeRoy originally intended to use MGMs Jackie the Lion (from the studio's logo) in the role of the Cowardly Lion, dubbing in an actors voice for the dialogue, but this idea was scrapped when Bert Lahr was suggested for the part.

  • Richard Thorpe was the original director of the movie, but was fired. He had made several choices for his vision of the film that were scrapped, including a blond, tousled hairstyle and baby doll make-up on Dorothy, different make-up for the Wicked Witch and Scarecrow, and a different look for the yellow brick road with oval bricks that looked artificial. All of these things were changed when George Cukor signed on as intermediate director.

  • There were actually five directors assigned to the movie at different points: Richard Thorpe, none of his shot material actually existing in the final film, George Cukor, whose only major contribution was changing the look of Dorothy and the Scarecrow, Victor Fleming, the credited director, who shot the bulk of the movie, but who had to leave to direct Gone with the Wind, King Vidor, who mainly filmed the Kansas scenes (the storm and "Somewhere over the Rainbow"), and producer Marvin LeRoy, who directed some transitional scenes. The movie also had 14 writers. 

  • Roy Bolger was originally cast to play the Tin Man and Buddy Ebsen the Scarecrow, but the roles were switched because Bolger's childhood idol, Fred Stone, had originated the part on stage in 1902 (Stone was briefly considered for the part, but at the age of 65 in 1938, he was not up to the physically demanding role).

  • "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was nearly cut from the film entirely for multiple reasons: Some at MGM felt that it made the Kansas scene too long,  while others thought the song would go too far over the heads of the children for whom the movie was intended and furthermore thought it was degrading for Dorothy to be singing in a barnyard.

  • The horses at the Emerald City were colored with Jell-O crystals.

  • After he receives his "brain," the Scarecrow incorrectly recites the Pythagorean Theorem.

  •  Most of the Wicked Witch's scenes had to be trimmed or cut entirely because they were thought to be too frightening for children.

  • The snow used for the "poppy field" scene was made from 100% industrial grade chrysotile asbestos. This was done despite the fact that the health hazards of asbestos had already been known for several years.

  • Three quotes from the movie appear on the American Film Institutes "100 Years...100 Movie Quotes" list:
         - "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." (#4)
         - "There's no place like home." (#23)
         - "I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!"(#99)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trailer Trash Thursday: Monsters University and Don Jon

Two new and noteworthy trailers debuted recently that I think are worth discussing. The first is the newest Monsters University trailer. Pixar seems to have become comfortable with revisiting its old franchises lately, and I'm not so sure that's such a good idea. Toy Story 2 and 3 are great, but then you have Cars 2, which is terrible. I suppose with this movie, and later Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, we'll see if they can successfully create a sequel that doesn't have the words "Toy" and "Story" in it. This trailer looks like it's full of energy and excitement, which is great and promising, but is also bereft of laughs (for me). Hopefully they're just saving those for your experience with the actual movie.

Next up is a movie that looks...strange, but also perhaps secretly good. I find Don Jon notable mostly because it is the feature film screenwriting and directing debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt has been a terrific actor in my eyes for a while now, and I'm very interested to see what he is capable of doing behind the camera. If Ben Affleck has taught us anything, it's that sometimes that works out great. I have to imagine Gordon-Levitt will do pretty well. I certainly have faith in him. He also stars in the movie, so that should help matters.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Only God Forgives" receives negative reaction from critics after screening

Well, this is depressing.

Only God forgives was (and really, still is) a movie that I had been very much looking forward to. The Red Band trailer looked amazing, and it all seemed to have a ton of promise. Drive was awesome, showing the talent of Nicolas Winding Refn as a director, and Ryan Gosling has been mostly great in his recent movies. I really thought this was going to be one of the best, or at lest best made, movies of the summer. However, apparently there has been a lukewarm reception to Refn and Gosling's new movie, even to the point of being booed at a screening. Seeing this news definitely tempers my expectations in terms of this being another masterful output from Refn, as was the case with Drive. Too bad. Maybe my reaction will be positive, though. Look forward to my review when the movie comes out in July.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Movie Trivia Tuesday: Casablanca

We all love to learn new things, right?! I highly enjoy doing research on movies and finding little factoids about them, either relating to hypothetical casting choices that didn't pan out, errors left in movies, production stories, information about awards and accolades films received, or other interesting tidbits. I thought it would be fun to share some fun facts about movies with my readers in a weekly column I will call "Movie Trivia Tuesday!" This week, I thought it would be appropriate to start with one of the most celebrated films of all time, Casablanca. Here are some cool facts about this great movie.

  • Though it is often misquoted, no one ever says, "Play it Again Sam" in the film. The closest to this line is when Humphrey Bogart says to Sam, "You played it for her you can play it for me...If she can stand it, I can. Play it!" and when Ingrid Bergman says “Play it sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’"

  • Bogart's signature line, "Here's looking at you, kid!" was originally in the script as "Here's good luck to you, kid," until he changed it. His new line never appears in the script.

  • Casablanca is based on a then-unproduced play called Everybody Comes to Rick’s. The movie was renamed Casablanca because of the popularity of the Charles Boyer film Algiers.

  • In the scene where Humphrey Bogart waits for Ingrid Bergman in a Paris train station, it’s raining and Bogart’s hat and trench coat are soaked.  He receives a letter saying Ingrid isn’t coming and gets on the train. We see Bogart standing in the train’s doorway with a dry coat and hat.

  • Michele Morgan was considered for the female lead. RKO asked for $55,000 to use the actress, but producer Hal B. Wallis refused to pay it when he could get Ingrid Bergman for $25,000.

  • The music was written by Max Steiner, who was best known for the score for Gone with the Wind. The song "As Time Goes By" by Herman Hupfeld had been part of the story from the original play. Steiner wanted to write his own composition to replace it, but Bergman had already cut her hair short for her next role (María in For Whom the Bell Tolls) and could not re-shoot the scenes which incorporated the song.

  • Studio publicity in 1941 claimed that Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan were scheduled to appear in Casablanca, and Dennis Morgan is mentioned as the third lead. However, this was never the case and the false story was planted, either by a studio publicist or a press agent for the three other actors, to keep their names in the press. Meanwhile George Raft was angling for the part with Jack L. Warner, but Hal Wallis had been assigned to search for what would be Humphrey Bogart's next starring role. He wrote to Jack Warner that he had found the next movie for Bogart and that the role was perfect for him. Nobody else was ever considered for the part.

  • Producer Hal B. Wallis nearly made the character Sam (the piano player) a female. Hazel Scott, Lena Horne, and Ella Fitzgerald were considered for the role.

  • Out of 8 nominations, Casablanca won 3 academy awards, for best director, best screenplay and best picture. Humphrey Bogart was nominated for best actor but lost to Paul Lukas in Watch on the Rhine. Claude Rains was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier. Casablanca was also nominated for Best Dramatic Score and Best Cinematography, both of which it lost to The Song of Bernadette, and Best Film Editing, losing to Air Force.

  • Rick's Café Américain was modeled after Hotel El Minzah in Tangier, Morocco.

  • Casablanca was named the #2 movie of all time by the American Film Institute in 1998 behind Citizen Kane. It later dropped to #3 behind Citizen Kane and The Godfather in the 2007 update to the list. 

  • Six quotes from the movie appear on AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes” list:
-      "Here's Looking at you, Kid." (#5)
-      "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." (#20)
-      “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’” (#28)
-      “Round up the usual suspects.” (#32)
-      “We’ll Always Have Paris.” (#43)
-      "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." (#67)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

J.J. Abrams sure knows how to make a fun sci-fi action movie. This was abundantly clear from his efforts with the first film in his reboot of the Star Trek franchise, and now the same can be said for its sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness.

One of the greatest strengths of Abrams' 2009 Star Trek was without a doubt the wonderful cast that was assembled to represent the classic characters of the television show and movies depicting the world of the original series. With Star Trek Into Darkness, these characters get an even greater to opportunity to show their individual strengths.  What’s more, especially within the first few minutes, you get to see them working together as a cohesive unit.  Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock remain particular standouts among this interesting and enjoyable band of characters, and they handle the daunting task of portraying these iconic characters very well.

Despite the movie's dour title, much of the fun that was present in the 2009 movie is carried over to Star Trek Into Darkness. While the original T.V. series is not really known for its tense action, these movies definitely excel in that department, and it works to their advantage, injecting a huge sense of excitement into the franchise. It helps that Abrams directs with a great eye for highly entertaining action. 

If I had a complaint about the first movie, it was that it had an underwhelming villain in Nero, who was not very interesting to watch and who I really didn't care about. Nero was the weakest part of that movie. Fortunately, Star Trek Into Darkness wholly rectifies its predecessor's shortcoming with Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison, a mysterious terrorist with a secret past. Harrison as a character is threatening and sinister and Cumberbatch is excellent in the role.

As fun as it is to watch, this movie still suffers from a lack of freshness. On one hand, it's nice to see a little bit of fan service, and Abrams clearly strives to please longtime fans with his references, but a handful of screenplay and plot hole issues make this movie feel like a retread of material that has been done and done better in years past. It would be great to see a completely new Star Trek movie that doesn't rely in some degree on winking to previous iterations in the franchise. With Abrams taking on a new duty as director of the upcoming Star Wars sequel, however, who knows if or when that will ever happen. Here's hoping he continues with the Trek universe as well at some point.

Overall, despite some script problems, Star Trek Into Darkness is a thrilling and entertaining movie that is a worthy follow-up to Abrams' original. The cast is just as strong the second time around, with an even better villain. Much of the first installment's sense of humor and fun is still intact, with a good dose of drama injected into the mix. Make sure to watch 1982s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan first so you can play "spot the references." There are a several.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Iron Man 3

After his third outing in the Iron Man suit, Robert Downey Jr. has shown once again that he was born to play Tony Stark.

Downey Jr. has consistently shined as Tony Stark, and it’s easy to pinpoint how and why. It’s hard to imagine any other actor playing the smug and sassy billionaire playboy philanthropist and being able to succeed in the part nearly as well as Downey Jr. does., because it feels like he IS Tony Stark.  I’ve heard it said that Robert Downey Jr. is just playing himself in the Tony Stark role, but I applaud the filmmakers for finding an actor who echoes the character so perfectly.

While Downey Jr. is certainly a seasoned veteran to the franchise, and continues to be excellent in the role of Tony Stark, Iron Man 3 ushers in the work of a new director into the world of Iron Man in Shane Black, writer of Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2, and writer/director of Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, also starring Downey Jr. Black vision of the Iron Man universe that is good, but not great. Black is a quality director of action and it surely shows in this movie.  One of the absolute highlights of Iron Man 3 is a collection of remarkable and exciting action sequences. From an assault on Tony Starks home to a daring rescue of white house officials plummeting through the air after being sucked out of Air Force 1, to an explosive shootout at the films climax, every action sequence feels like the best part of the movie, and in those moments, it’s definitely a whole lot of fun. 

Essential to the formula of a completely successful comic book movie is an interesting villain. I feel that is an area where Iron Man 3 doesn’t really work.  Oh, the Mandarin is interesting enough, and Ben Kingsley is predictably great in the role he has to play, but let’s just say his character goes into a strange direction that might anger hardcore fans of the comic

This is a good place to address the more comedic elements of the movie.  As I pointed to earlier with my assessment of Downey Jr. as Stark, he maintains his sense of humor in this movie, delivering some great comedic lines, some of which, admittedly, do work better than others. Even Ben Kingsley gets to flex his comedy muscle a bit to great results.

As much as I enjoyed Downey Jr. and Kingsley, I am not a fan of Guy Pierce. Frankly, where his character goes is bland and boring, but I don’t think I can say much more than that.

This movie is the first in the “phase 2” portion of Marvel’s stable of films, and the first to appear after the enormous success that was The Avengers. That is a tough act to follow, but how this movie handles previous events works well. There are a few references to The Avengers, most notably in the form of sleepless nights, nightmares and panic attacks experienced by Tony Stark and an anxiety that pervades him throughout the movie over what happened with the space worms in The Avengers. These moments felt welcome in the film, and it’s great that they didn’t try to shoehorn in an excessive amount of references to the point of going overboard. In fact, Iron Man 3 provides an enjoyable continuation of the Marvel universe. One that still makes me want to see where things are going as they lead up to The Avengers 2, with the next two stops being Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

While I do feel sucked in enough to want to see where things are going, the fact is Iron Man 3 is a good movie that falls short of being great.  However, while it may not be the best installment in the series, it’s a marked improvement over the previous installment, and it’s likely to be some of the most fun you’ll have at a theater all summer.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: 42

Brian Helgeland’s 42 takes a powerful swing and sends its subject sailing most of the way out of the park.

The film is a touching and inspiring telling of the difficulties faced by legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson while trying to adjust to and eventually rise above the doubts and prejudices held by his teammates, rival teams, and the fans in the stands as the first player to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball as a historic member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

At the same time, 42 also tells the story of Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ general manager at the time who, with his strong biblical convictions, decided to take a chance on adding a black player to his team.

As I walked out of the theater, one man behind me remarked something to the affect of "that was an incredible movie." I don't disagree. There were lots of things to like about the movie, including how much it strives to reveal and draw you into what was America in 1947. Several instances of racial inequality and segregation are shown throughout the film, and they are all difficult to fathom in 2013. However, they did exist, and the film does a commendable job showing how things were in that time.

As enthralling as it is to see Robinson’s rise from being plucked out of the Negro league to playing in the minor leagues with white men and eventually signing with the Dodgers (it is), I also can’t help but feel that this movie felt a little watered down from what it could have been, but that’s not a rarity with biopics.  For all humorous and light moments in this movie, it would have been intriguing to also explore more of the tension Robinson experienced both while he was on the field and in his personal life. We mostly see these feelings played out through two or three characters and a handful of teammates, and even the death threats Robinson received as a result are only briefly mentioned.

That being said, it was enjoyable to see all of the care that went into this movie with what we do see. The movie is very well shot and features great direction, particularly in creating captivating action on the baseball diamond.

In addition, the film is helped along by engaging performances. Robinson is played by Chadwick Boseman and Rickey by Harrison Ford, and both are great to watch on screen, with Ford being a particular standout. He gives a growling and crusty performance that very well could net an Oscar nomination.

Helgeland’s portrait of Robinson may be watered down and safe version of the actual hardships he faced in favor of a lighter and, at times, more humorous "movie of the week" portrayal of Robinson’s struggle for acceptance, but it’s still a respectfully told and well-acted story that any fan of an inspiring tale or enjoyable sports film should experience.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Point Break remake gains a director

Many sources are reporting a director has been attached to an upcoming remake of Point Break. Heading the project will be Ericson Core, who served as cinematographer for The Fast and the furious and Daredevil. He also directed one other feature-length movie, Invincible. I mostly think of Invincible as being decent, but not too memorable, and I definitely haven't had the desire to revisit it since it was in theaters.

On the subject of a Point Break remake, it seems like a nonsensical venture. The 1991 movie by Kathryn Bigelow is awesome on its own. It features one of a few great performances Keanu Reeves has given throughout his career, and Patrick Swayze is excellent, as well. Furthermore, the action is all rather well done. Therefore, there doesn't seem to be any logical and GOOD reason why it would need to be remade. A well done remake either improves on an area in which the original was lacking, or comments on a social issue that is relevant to modern society, whereas bad remakes just retell the same exact story with different actors. It really feels like a Point Break remake will be unnecessary and likely fall into the latter category. It appears it will focus on something other than surfing, but I don't know if that will be enough to make it a fresh and newly enjoyable experience.

I hope I'm wrong and that it's a remake that causes the story to be worth revisiting a second time or in a completely new and interesting way.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Welcome to Murph on Movies! My name is John Murphy, and with this blog, I hope to establish a friendly and non-judgmental environment for people to discuss new movies, reminisce about older classics, talk about our favorites, and maybe even weigh in on big movie news. Some very brief background information about me: I got a degree in Journalism and minor in Cinema Studies from The University of Central Florida in Orlando and I have an extensive Blu-Ray collection, but really, I'm by no means an expert on the subject. I do, however, know exactly what I like, and I look forward to sharing with you, my readers and subscribers, what I recommend and enjoy in the world of film. I am excited to explore all the potential directions in which this blog could go as the weeks, months, and years go by, as well as getting to know the tastes of my readers and hearing your opinions on the movies I discuss and review. Happy watching everyone!